I’d made a couple of cheesecakes before, but none had turned out exceptionally. Either I got a giant crack in the top, or my “water-tight” aluminum foil seal malfunctioned, and the water bath leaked into the spring-form pan when baking. They were mostly edible, but nothing to write home about. I got some new spring-form pans for Christmas, so I knew I wanted to make a cheesecake first thing. A cheesecake can be expensive to make, as many recipes call for close to a metric ton of cream cheese.  I came across Ty Flo’s recipe, which only used 2 blocks. It also incorporated sour cream, which I had a giant tub of. It was rated 5  stars with a ton of reviews, so figured it was a good place to start.

It turned out perfect! The texture was thick and creamy, just what a cheesecake should be. For the topping I used Ina’s raspberry topping. In a previous baking venture I’d tried her recipe, which resulted in aforementioned crack. But, the topping – the topping was to die for. It’s such a simple concept; melting down strawberry jelly, then mixing in fresh raspberries. The sugar in the jelly just slightly macerates the berries. Turning them into sweet, juicy, little glistening gems. Perched on top of a decadent cheesecake. Sheer perfection. If you are leery of baking a cheesecake at home, please try this recipe. It won’t disappoint!

In rifling around in the refrigerator last week, taking stock of what we needed for the weekly stock-up, I realized I had a bag of fresh cranberries lurking in the veggie bin. I knew I was done with cranberry sauce for the year. And, I wasn’t in the mood for fruity drinks. I had seen several versions of these delightful cranberry bars on several blogs, so I decided to make those with my turned up treasures. Tracey’s version was the one that finally sold me.  Shortbread made with brown butter? Be still my heart.

They were so delicious! A nice tartness from the cranberry, with the juice from the orange rounding out the sweetness. They held together really nicely too, which is something that I’ve had trouble with fruit/shortbread bars in the past. I sent the leftovers into work with Jon today, and everyone really enjoyed them. He said they went quickly! If you have a bag of cranberries leftover from the holidays hanging around, make these. If you don’t, pick up a bag before they’re gone for the season. I plan to do just that this weekend, and freeze a couple of bags. It’s nice to have a stash to make cranberry lemonade in July! Enjoy.

I’m usually not one to make something, and then blog it immediately. But, I just had to share these wonderful cheesecake bars with you guys before the end of the year. I’m going to try to lose some of this remaining baby weight (yeah, it’s been a year, but that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!) in 2012, so I wanted to make myself a decadent treat to “go out with a bang”. Obviously, a good choice was made.

I mean, what’s not to love? Oreo crust + Cheesecake+ Nutella? To-die! Took no time at all to make, either. The food processor does all of the work for you. And, because of the parchment lining – cleanup is a snap. I’m not going to try to sell these anymore, because I shouldn’t need to. Just do yourself a favor and make them. I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year! Here is to plenty of good eating, drinking, and friendships in 2012. Cheers!

If there’s one thing I can always find leftover in my refrigerator, it’s white rice. A few weeks ago I blogged one of my favorite ways to use it. Well, this, ladies and gents, is the other. Rice pudding is one of the best desserts out there in my book. Rich and filling, homey and comforting.

This version is made on the stove top, and it came together in no time flat. I usually have all the ingredients required on hand, so I can see myself  making this for the nights I want to have dessert – but, don’t want to put forth too much effort. I topped it with a dab of homemade whipped cream, and some fresh ground cinnamon. A perfect, easy dessert for Christmas Eve this year! For an extra kick, soak the raisins in a bit of rum before adding them to the pudding.

Also, tomorrow is the last day to enter the Red Pack giveaway! Leave a comment here to enter.